The Secret Treachery of Words: Feminism and Modernism in America

The Secret Treachery of Words: Feminism and Modernism in America

The Secret Treachery of Words: Feminism and Modernism in America

The Secret Treachery of Words: Feminism and Modernism in America

Synopsis

The Secret Treachery of Words untangles the intertwined relationship between feminism and modernism through a look at four major figures of the era - Isadora Duncan, Margaret Anderson, Floyd Dell and Josephine Herbst.

Excerpt

Feminism faced a crisis after American women won the right to vote in 1920. Though feminists continued to launch major initiatives for women, feminism itself seemed to be out of step with the times and to have lost its cultural power. Some feminists confronted the crisis by associating feminism explicitly with modernism, then dominating the arts and all sorts of cultural expression. the journalist Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, for instance, proclaimed that a modernist style would do for feminism what it had done for art: make it new. This infusion of modernism created a new figure for feminism altogether, a figure Bromley called “Feminist—New Style.” Drinking in the excitement of the Jazz Age, Bromley wrote:

She aspires to understand the meaning of the twentieth century as she
sees it expressed in the skyscrapers, the rapid pace of city life, the expres
sionistic drama, the abstract conception of art, the new music; the Joycian
novel. She is acutely conscious that she is being carried along in the cur
rent of these sweeping forces, that she and her sex are in the vanguard of
change.

Bromley's “Feminist—New Style” was hypothetical; “she” stood for the author and yet was more abstract and general than just one person, suggesting that any modern, urbane woman could adopt the new style of feminism.

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